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Hiding truths and replacing them with lies are often very devastating to family members and even more so when a son’s whole life has been built upon these lies. Mark Haddon, in the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, explores the effects of discovering a world of lies. The father builds up an extensive web of lies around Christopher in attempts to protect Christopher from the harsh truth and also due to the father’s own emotionally unsettling mishaps. All of these events eventually reveal themselves to be essential in the plot development within the story. Thus, as the story progresses with more bits and pieces being revealed, the father plays an important role in plot development through his lies with Christopher, relationship with Mrs. Shears, and his absolute unwavering love for Christopher.
The father heavily affects the plot through his relationship with Mrs. Shears, it was the relationship that sustained the father in his darkest times, and the relationship that would be the source of the central plot, the murder of Wellington. Once Christopher’s mother had left, his father found reassurance with Mrs. Shears whom had also lost a loved one in her life. When the father flew into a rage at Mrs. Shears’ resistance towards having a relationship between two, the only thing he thought about was that “she cared more for that bloody dog than for than for me, for us” (121). He then goes on to answer one of the key plot questions, who had killed the dog. The father’s words on describing his reasons also reveal further information defining a multitude of characters in the novel. Whereas Christopher once had to search for this information, his father now tells us vital information regarding characters such as Mr. and Mrs. Shears. More clarification is gained on the events that passed between Mr. Shears and his mother, as well as how the father lasted through some of his darker times. It was also his relationship with Mrs. Shears that caused Christopher to eventually find the dog in Mrs. Shears’ yard. Amongst the opening lines of the book Christopher states, “The dog was dead” (1). A simple line, yet it is the basis of the entire novel. As Christopher attempts to solve the mystery of who had killed the dog, it opens up worlds of lies and secrets that had been wound around Christopher. Christopher eventually learns of the murderer, his father thus solving the original plot, yet at the same time, create more conflict believing his father to be a murderer. As a result of the father’s relationship with Mrs. Shears, the dog is murdered, the event that is the essence of this entire novel, it also leads to the father building up an endless web of lies around Christopher.
The world of lies that the father builds around Christopher also plays a key role in establishing the plot because all of Christopher’s trust for his father is replaced by a fear that drives him away. In the beginning Christopher is unaware of many secrets in his life. He even goes on to say about his father that, “he always tells me the truth” (87). This comment from Christopher regarding his father indicates the high level of trust that Christopher places in his father. The story is told from Christopher’s point of view and how Christopher views his father is a very important factor in plot development. Without any trust in his father, or the belief that his father loves him, Christopher would have ran away at the first sign of impatience. Even so, the damaging effects of this misplaced trust becomes clear when Christopher realizes that “Mother had been alive all the time. And Father had lied about this” (112). This marks a major turning point in the plot. Not only does it reveal that much of Christopher’s world had consisted of lies, it also reveals a separate plot, specifically where the mother was located. Many events that follow thereafter also occur due to the single truth being revealed. It destroys any and all trust between Christopher and his father. The plot is further advanced when it is revealed that Wellington had been killed by his father in a fit of rage. With the father also revealing and admitting that Christopher’s mother was still alive, we see that the plot moves from who killed Wellington to become the question of Christopher’s future. Thus it can be concluded that the expansive web of lies that is built around Christopher is a major factor in developing the plot. The collapse of the lies reveal that the father killed Wellington, but at the same time, also reveals the major driving force behind the plot, the father’s unwavering love for Christopher.
Finally, the father reveals his motivation behind the entire plot, and that is his love for Christopher. This clearly illustrates the reasons behind each event that occurs within the novel in great detail. After the father’s confession of breaking up with Christopher’s mother, the question remains of why the father would hide the truth in the first place. He then proceeds to answer with, “‘I did it for your good Christopher’” (114). This indicates how the father viewed many of his own actions and how desperate he was of protecting Christopher from many of the harsh truths. The world of lies came from a single lie and a single event that had happened in the past, however the unwavering love for Christopher stopped his father from directly disclosing the actual events. The father did not wish for Christopher’s image of both his mother and himself to be tarnished with the ugly events that had happened, and especially that the mother had left Christopher. Many events following the divorce are also affected by this steadfast love. Unwilling and careful to never show signs of a breakdown around Christopher, he turns towards Mrs. Shears whom had also lost her husband. This then moves on to reappear later in the plot as Christopher rediscovers the information that his father had attempted to hide. The events cumulate in one final statement from father where he tells Christopher, “‘you have to learn to trust me…And I don’t care how long it takes’” (218). It clearly demonstrates how desperate the father is to sustain the relationship between Christopher and himself. This desperation comes from his resolute love for Christopher and the fact that he doesn’t believe himself capable of dealing with the loss of another loved one. Many of the resolving events within the novel are also sourced from the father’s love, and desire to hold on to a loved one. He constantly attempts to regain Christopher’s trust in hopes that Christopher will not leave him. It then becomes quite clear that the entire plot within the story is driven through the father’s love for Christopher. The source of the main conflict, the death of Wellington, is originated through the father’s need and desperation to stay strong for Christopher. The climax is also derived from the collapse of a web of lies that the father had built in wishes of protecting Christopher. Lastly, the multitude of events that occur during the resolution are all related to the father’s love for Christopher as the thought of Christopher leaving, and losing another loved one is too much to bear for the father.
Overall it is quite clear that the father holds a key position in the establishment of plot in this novel through his lies surrounding Christopher and developing a relationship with Mrs. Shears while the key motivation comes from the father’s love for Christopher. While the entire story is told from Christopher’s view, his father is the source of everything within the novel. A man that has done both great and terrible deeds, a figure of both trust and hate within Christopher. The father tried everything he could to hold his family together, and when it fails, the world comes crashing down around him and his son. Fatherly love in this story is definitely not obvious on the surface, but when attempting to fathom the complex plot of this story, the role that the father and his love plays becomes very important. This is a novel, told by a son surrounded in a world of mystery, and a father who decides what passes and what doesn’t.
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